Friday, July 29, 2005

Orang Asli Ministry?

Mission is not only preaching, but also empowering the weak, alleviating suffering and social justice as a foretaste of the Kingdom come, and God's Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Claudia did a brave job in this Malaysiakini article... It reminds us of how, in contrast, Christian missional practice ought to be compassionate, respectful and authentic.

Religious official denies forced conversion of Orang Asli

Claudia Theophilus
Feb 4, 05 1:32pm

Claims of Islamisation of the Orang Asli in Gua Musang, Kelantan, by way of coercion, empty promises and even force in some cases may have merely been "a case of frustration", said a religious official at the state's Islamic and Malay Customary Council (MAIK).

Assistant propagation officer Ahmad Nordin said some Orang Asli may have been upset with MAIK for not giving any contribution during the recent Hari Raya Haji two weeks ago.

He also drew a distinction between donation and aid, saying that the former is occasional while the latter is fixed and on a more regular basis.

"Every year, we contribute in kind by giving them (registered converts) some Raya cookies, glutinous rice and other dry foodstuff for the Aidilfitri celebration," he explained.

"But we do not extend this to all festivals. Probably this is why they are now making such claims, which are totally untrue."

Yesterday, malaysiakini reported the allegations made by a group of indigenous people from various Orang Asli posts (administrative districts) in Gua Musang when met recently in Terengganu.

Force never used

Besides alleging forced conversion, the Orang Asli claimed that authorities were neglecting their welfare by failing to provide monetary assistance.

Firmly denying the allegations, Ahmad reiterated that MAIK has never used force in its propagation work.

Neither have counterparts in the Islamic Development Department (Jakim), the Malaysian Muslim Welfare Association (Perkim) or the Malaysian Muslim Youth Movement (Abim), he added.

"We ask the Orang Asli about their problems and then explain Islam to them before registering those who want to embrace this way of life."

He said that usually five officials would visit the Orang Asli community and stay over for two or three days in each village conducting religious talks and programmes.

"Sometimes, other agency officials tag along in an integrated propagation trip," he said, adding that there are more than 500 villages or 23 posts in Gua Musang alone.

"We have registered close to 4,000 Orang Asli adults and children in Gua Musang and Jeli (as Muslims) so far, out of the estimated 9,000 population in the former area."

As a follow up, Ahmad said a penggerak masyarakat (religious facilitator) is stationed in every village with some choosing to live nearby.

Promises of cash

"Besides the 26 ustaz posted by Jakim in the villages or Orang Asli administrative districts, a surau is also provided in each village."

Ahmad also related how some Christian groups, mainly from Raub and Cameron Highlands in Pahang, were also actively involved with the Orang Asli community.

"Since ours is a free country, anyone is free to say or do anything within the law."

According to the Orang Asli, he said, the Christian groups hold regular parties for them.

"There was even talk that promises were made to give each Orang Asli a token sum of between RM15,000 and RM20,000 but nothing was paid," he claimed.

In comparison, MAIK gives each Orang Asli a one-off 'cash gift' of RM400 upon conversion to be paid over two or four months.

"On top of that, we also provide emergency funds for hospitalisation and weddings to ease their burden," said Ahmad.

Several Orang Asli had told malaysiakini that concerns over forced conversion raised with the Orang Asli Affairs Department (JHEOA) had largely been ignored.

When contacted, JHEOA Director-General Fadzil Mahamud denied the department's involvement in any way with Islamic propagation exercises.

"We are not involved and cannot be seen to be so with religious activities among the Orang Asli. Our scope is to ensure the overall development and well-being of the indigenous community in Peninsular Malaysia regardless of their beliefs," he explained.

"We can't be seen to be promoting Islam. We also don't organise religious functions."


But he conceded that the JHEOA field trips do act as door-openers for Islamic propagation.

"We give full cooperation to agencies carrying out whatever programme in the Orang Asli areas but we ourselves stay out of it," he said, noting that allegations of forced conversion were quite common in areas like Pahang.

"We mainly organise awareness talks on health, education and motivational programmes aimed at bringing about a mindset or attitude change within the Orang Asli community.

"This is to enable them to assimilate with other Malaysians. I believe that it is unhealthy, even dangerous, for them to continue living in isolation."

On whether other religious groups have ventured into Orang Asli territory, he said several evangelists have written for permission but none have conducted registered conversions or joined the JHEOA on field trips.

"Islamisation of the Orang Asli is not done by us. There are government agencies to handle that. We only play host to their development," said Fadzil.

"The only constraint for us in implementing infrastructure or physical development is the limited budget, but we're managing the best we can by, for example, focusing more on the Orang Asli community in Perak and Pahang due to their population size.

A total of RM257 million was allocated for development, he added, covering an estimated 150,000 Orang Asli under the 8th Malaysia Plan, which five-year term ends this year.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Unlocking Da Vinci Code

The Event/Book/Movie Everyone Is Talking About...

The Da Vinci Code Forum

Date: 20 August 2005 (Saturday)
Time: 8 pm
Venue: City Discipleship Presbyterian Church ( Location Map )

Panelists: Dr Ng Kam Weng ( Kairos Research Director)
Ps Wong Fong Yang ( CDPC Senior Pastor)
Dave (Fellow of The Agora Seminar?)

Some Clues: Dan Brown's novel has taken the world by storm! Not only is it an
intriquing page-turner, it also made some controversial claims!

All Fans Are Invited to Explore The Fact or Fiction Behind the

Who are the Gnostics? Who was Mary Magdalene? Is there a
conspiracy theory to cover up the truth?

Will the real Jesus please stand up?

Come with your friends and find out more! There will be time for
Questions and Answers...

Monday, July 25, 2005

Science & God


Can a man of science believe in God and can a woman of faith rely on the sciences?
The easy answer to both questions is obviously yes, if only because they already exist.

Our topic today is not whether it is possible but why it is reasonable. More importantly we shall discuss why a Christian worldview makes for a better scientist and scientific (rather than scientistic) approach to the Bible makes for a wiser Christian.

We shall consider how an atheist scientist may be disadvantaged when compared to a believing scientist and how a person of faith who understands the wonderful gift of God we call science can enrich our understanding of God in ways that is otherwise not possible. One example is that science gives us the insight to realize that the Bible never claimed that the earth is flat. We did not need Col. Yuri Gagarin to tell us that he saw a round earth in space. On the other hand, it was Louis Pasteur's conviction that all things were created by god that led him to look for what we now call microbes, making milk safe to drink and curing all manner of ills.

Programme: Three segments
• 5 August 2005 – 8.30 pm to 10.00 pm
• 6 August 2005 – 10.30 am to 12.00 am & 1.30 pm to 3.00 pm

Community Baptist Church, PJ
107 &109A, Jalan SS2/6, 47300 Petaling Jaya


Rev Ron Choong is an ordained minister from Malaysia and founding director of ACT. He read law, the sciences, international politics, the humanities and Christian theology at institutions in Malaysia, Great Britain and the United States. An evangelist in New York City since 1990, he serves a summer teaching ministry in Asia. Ron holds the BA, LLB Hons, MDiv, ThM, and STM degrees from Open, London and Yale Universities as well as Princeton Theological Seminary, where he is completing his PhD in philosophy of science and theology. His current research includes the emergence of human religious cognition & the implications of the doctrine of the imago Dei for philosophy and the natural sciences. He is married to, and fully aided and abetted by Lingmei, a clothing designer.

The Academy for Christian Thought (ACT) is a research and educational initiative founded by Ron Choong as a resource facility for the Christian Church. Its mission is to offer a responsible account of Christian belief in a scientific and pluralist world. This enables a response to the call of the Great Commission to disciple all nations. It also equips the church for effective and responsible apologetic witness in the marketplace of ideas. In response to the call of the Great Commission to disciple all nations, we encourage a transformation of the mind, to know Christ and make Him known. We seek to bridge the gaps between the academy, the workplace, and the church, by articulating a comprehensive Christian worldview through a five-fold ministry and equip the church by discipling the minds and hearts of a new generation of leaders.

To register, please email to call 603-80608639 for further details. The cost of seminar materials of RM20.00

Emergency: Our Response

Before the world can recompose after the tremendous shock wrought by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, we were once again shaken by another earthquake that happened the day after Easter 2005. Although the devastations caused by the second earthquake paled in comparison to the first, the world was again reminded of our helplessness, frailty and fragile mortality. The world, or at least we in South East Asia, was at once angry and baffled. We were outraged by the widespread destruction; a city was brought down to its knees and into oblivion, more than 200, 000 lives were consumed and hundreds of thousands more were gravely affected. And many of us were baffled, confused and were utterly lost at trying to grasp all that had happened. One might be able to explain the cruelty of a tyrant or a murderer, but the cruelty displayed in natural disasters is truly a challenge to our notion of justice. This part of world, being a region still very much holding on to the beliefs of the supernatural, began even to question the mercy of God or the gods. Nothing seemed to make sense when we attempt to reconcile the death of thousands and a loving Deity. Some even questioned whether God was in control. Perhaps He was as helpless as the mother who saw her own child being drowned and yet was not able to do anything.

For many Christians, even the rest of us who were fortunate enough to not taste the bitterness of the after-shock, this is both a genuine test of faith and a wake up call. As one quipped, “How do we make sense of God in times when all that had happened did not make sense?

A group of Christian university students that meet regularly to put their thoughts over issues that matter, (called Christ Seminar) saw the timely need to respond to the challenging questions which arose thereafter, but at the same time; they realize that they should not attempt to bundle the answers in a neat and convenient package. Hence, a discussion was held, aptly titled,

Emergency: Our Response

The aims of the discussion were:

1. To have a clearer theological understanding of “Another Earthquake”
2. To discuss practical measures to take in response to the event
3. To produce a paper on the discussions and share the thoughts with others

So, is God in control?
For our God to be King of the universe, he must be king overall, exerting his sovereignty in every department of the Creation. Certainly there is not a single square inch of our lives that Christ does not claim, “That is mine!” (Abraham Kuyper). The Scripture has recorded for the assurance of our faith, in many many instances, that everything takes place by the permission of God. This is where we must begin our search, in fact this is the foundation of our faith, that our God is not frail, he is not helpless, he is not unable, he is not weak; our God, he must not at all be thought to be a small god. The sovereign and almighty God was, is and will always be in control.

And if God was in control and the earthquake did not take him by surprise.

Below is an excerpt from Dr. John Piper’s sermon “Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy”, laden with biblical evidences, which helped us to understand and grasp God’s sovereignty: -

God claims power over tsunamis in Job 38:8 when he asks Job rhetorically, “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb . . . and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’?

O Lord . . . you rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.Psalm 89:8-9

And Jesus himself has the same control today as he once did over the deadly threats of waves: “He . . . rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calmLuke 8:24.

It is important to establish God’s power and involvement in the earthquakes as we must have a clear presupposition that God is ultimate, not Satan.

Why would God do such a thing?
God’s purpose is always good, though not always simple. No matter how great and horrible the suffering and death it seemed, God always meant it for good. Job, for instance; was a godly man and his miseries were not God’s punishment (Job 1:1, 8). Their design was purifying not punishment (Job 42:6). But we do not know the spiritual condition of Job’s children. Job was certainly concerned about them (Job 1:5). God may have taken their life in judgment. If that is true, then the same calamity proved in the end to be mercy for Job and judgment on his children. This is true of all calamities. They mingle judgment and mercy. They are both punishment and purification. Suffering, and even death, can be both judgment and mercy at the same time.

The clearest illustration of this is the death of Jesus. It was both judgment and mercy. It was judgment on Jesus because he bore our sins (not his own), and it was mercy toward us who trust him to bear our punishment (Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) and be our righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Another example is the curse that lies on this fallen earth. Those who do not believe in Christ experience it as judgment, but believers experience it as, merciful, though painful, preparation for glory. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope” (Romans 8:20). This is God’s subjection. This is why there are tsunamis.

Who suffers from this fallen world of natural disasters? All of us, Christians included: “Not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23). For those who cast themselves on the mercy of Christ these afflictions are “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). And when death comes, it is a door to paradise. But for those who do not treasure Christ, suffering and death are God’s judgment. “It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17)
John Piper, sermon titled “Tsunami, Sovereignty and Mercy

However, we must also be careful not to give answers hastily and try to quickly rationalize the reason to why the earthquakes happened. It is fundamentally, the prerogative of the sovereign God. As we prepare ourselves to give theological response to those who enquire, we must also begin to “weep with those who weep" (Romans 12:15).

A Call to Wake Up
Two observations were made: -

1. Nobody was prepared to face the second earthquake which came in just 3 months after the first.

2. Both earthquakes happened a day after significant Christian events- namely the first, after Christmas and the second, after Easter.

See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, "Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven." This phrase, "Yet once more," indicates the removal of what is shaken, as of what has been made, in order that what cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:25-29

Although we do not know precisely when the end times will arrive, we must take note that the Bible does contain prophecies concerning the end times.

Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.. Haggai 2:6

I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the Lord of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. Isaiah 13:13

The foundations of the earth tremble. The earth is utterly broken, the earth is rent asunder, the earth is violently shaken. The earth staggers like a drunken man, it sways like a hut; its transgression lies heavy upon it, and it falls, and will not rise again. Isaiah 24:18-20

I looked and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood . . . The sky vanished like a scroll that is rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the generals and the rich and the strong, and every one, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand before it?’ Revelation 6:12-17

A loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, 'It is done!' And there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as had never been since men were on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered great Babylon, to make her drain the cup of the fury of his wrath. Revelation 16:17-19

Now what you have here is a Biblical prophecy that there is coming a day in which there will be such a violent shaking in creation that the world as we know it will be removed. It will not be anymore. There will come a new heaven and a new earth on which righteousness dwells, but this world is going to come to a cataclysmic end some day and there will be a removal of the world as we know it and what cannot be shaken will remain; which is the Kingdom of God. John Piper

What then is the message for us Christians as we observed these events?

In a world of uncertainty and unsettledness, we must be quick to listen and swift to respond to the warning signs that God has given to us. Instead of clinging to our worldly belongings, we must be prepared to forgo and leave everything that we have as we prepare our hearts for the second coming of Christ. This is a struggle to many, especially for Christians who, in their hearts have a clearer understanding of the magnitude of the Kingdom of God, yet find difficulty in parting with our worldly belongings due to our sinful nature. As one asked, “Do we ever think of running out of our homes with our Bible instead of cash?” There is a need to look at our inward selves before we reflect our responses to the world in times like this. Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32). We must, in the words of some, “constantly introspect and reexamine our values” and come before God in repentance. We must see God as our only security.

Biblical Literacy
At the same time, we see an urgent need to call for others to repent as well. The tragedies caused by the earthquakes served as an important platform for us to share the Gospel. For many of us who are usually timid, it is time that we gather courage to ask questions and get feedback from our family and friends who have yet to know Christ. This is also the time when we have to be equipped with the Word of God. We can no longer afford to slack if we are serious in evangelizing. In order for us to give theological responses to the world, we must first be prepared and thoroughly equipped; a greater degree of biblical literacy must be pursued. Perhaps, it is even timelier than ever that Christians should take more interests to study eschatology so to be able to understand the signs of time and educate and warn others.
Sharing the Gospel with Humility and Love
Indeed, sharing the Gospel we must, but let us also be mindful of the Scripture portion of “with meekness and fear”. Sharing the Gospel with our best intentions for the other person whom the Gospel is being shared to requires effective communication skills, which are both speaking and listening to each other. The communication is considered failed when we are more than willing to share and speak of our faith, but also just as unwilling to listen to what others have to say according to their beliefs respectively. All the more we must emphasize on not merely sharing the Gospel, but sharing the Gospel with humility and love. “With humility” means that we are willing to listen to other views and respond to the questions posed with high sensitivity towards the different belief systems that different people hold. To condemn and be too swift to pass judgments are unnecessary and unwise, even so would be a turn-off to people. We would then be shutting the doors of evangelism after us. It must come to our realization that people need the Lord just as much as we do, whether or not they are Indonesian Muslims, Thai Buddhists or Sri Lankan Hindus. And they will not know Him unless we extend our arms to reach out to them. For us to reach out to them, we must first demonstrate Christ’s love for them through our care and concern for them. In moments of distress, there is nothing as comforting as the touch of a hand, the words of encouragement spoken, the shoulder to cry and grief on and the warmth of an embrace from one to another. Being compassionate and loving one another is not merely a virtue, it is a commandment!

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one anotherJohn 13:34

And what greater love can we shower each other than by being there for our brothers and sisters, bringing them not only comfort but also hope in our Lord- through mission and relief. We do not hesitate to pray and give away our clothes or money and for that, we have much to be joyful of, but this is also the time when we begin to take that extra step forward by reaching out to them personally. Perhaps, having a taste of the realism that surround us when we are actually in the tragic scene itself would help us to fully realize how much the world needed God. It is during times like this, we see God’s mercies extended to Man comprehensively and His glory being manifested through the good works of people, Christians in particular.

Becoming World Christians
Even though not all will be called to be missionary or to serve in grief-stricken places hit by the earthquake or tsunami for that matter, we see the urgency for Christians to be a “World Christian”, as David Bryant had put it. One practical way to reach out to the people who are affected by the earthquake would be going to the place itself to provide assistance in translation, medical relief and clearing up. Certainly, there are many more ways to take action and help the victims. But the question is, what role do we play in helping them? We must reorder our lives so that we may live for God’s global cause. Our attitudes should not be confined in such a way that we appear to be “picking up passengers while on the way to our final destination”. It should not be a “by-the-way” approach when it comes to evangelizing, so to speak. We must not, in any manner; be indifferent to the calamities that fell around us. Therefore, Christians are not only to talk, but also walk that talk. We should be quick to lend a helping hand to the relief work in the affected areas, whether directly or indirectly. For instance, those who will and can go to the affected areas such as Acheh and now the Nias Islands shall go and provide assistance to the relief groups there while the rest, can provide funding and other supplies for the people in need. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel, if necessary; use words.” However, we should not take his words out of context. Though we must have compassion for these people, we must also be prepared to answer questions concerning our faith, as said in 1 Peter 3:15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear”.

Giving God all the Glory
Indeed, God will not only be glorified through the words that we speak, but also the actions we make. Indeed, we should be quick to response, but fighting to be among the first relief organization to arrive at the affected areas does not indicate Christ-like manners. We must constantly ask ourselves, “How do my actions glorify God?” John Piper spoke in his sermon beautifully, “I exhorted you not to turn the sovereignty of God into a permission for passivity, but a reason to hope. Let the sovereignty of God make you hopeful that change is possible, not passive as if no change were necessary."

Perhaps, we should remind ourselves that “it is not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (1 Corinthians 15: 10).

Without God, we can do absolutely nothing. Therefore, we should take heart that we are after all been bestowed with sovereign grace that we may be in missionary service to others.

Let us not take pride in ourselves even so as we serve others.

We pray for you always, that our God will . . . fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you." 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12

Christ gets the glory when it is manifest that God enables us to fulfill our good resolves through him.

"Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21

Again, notice, since God enables us to do what is pleasing in his sight "through Jesus," it is Jesus who gets the glory, not us.
"Whoever . . . serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." 1 Peter 4:11

The giver gets the glory. Because God is the one who enables us to "serve" him, he gets the credit for the service.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23

Christian attitudes and behaviors are the fruit of the Spirit, not ultimately the fruit of our own efforts. Our efforts are essential, but not finally decisive.

What About Our Own Backyard?
Evangelism should not be viewed as a mission to be done out our country only. What about our Muslim friends who live next to us or go to classes with us every day? Do we not see the need to share the Gospel with them as well? They are after all, the most unreached group of people in Malaysia. Do we think of packing our bags to preach the Gospel when there is an urgency to evangelize to people who are nearest to us? Of course, we always encourage Christians to evangelize to people in other countries but it has dawned to us that we should reconsider our ‘exclusivity’ of the Gospel to the Muslims in our country. With the trend of more inter-faith dialogues and discussions among other Muslims, God has indeed opened doors for us to “make disciples of all nations…”. (Matthew 28: 19).

The discussion was wrapped up with much meaningful words- “Naked I come from my mother’s womb, naked shall I go. The Lord gives and the lord takes away”. Even if we cannot make sense with the sufferings, we can make sense that God has revealed to us through Jesus Christ and that assurance is sufficient and we are confident and we choose to trust the Lord. We must realize that ultimately, we can only depend on God and that we need God. Even so due to what had happened, we need Him even more. Let this discussion spur us to act beyond words and to be a constant reminder for us to keep watch.

Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is comingMatthew 24:42

However, there is reason for hope. Therefore, let us not be downcast as we look forward to the promise that He has given us through His sovereign grace that is to make us heirs of the world.

Romans 4:16-21
For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, (as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. In hope against hope he believed, so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

Reported by Yennie
30th March 2005

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Dumped into Drums

Dumped into Drums
Christianity Today, July 2005

Dumped into Drums
bearing the cross

Eritrea ramps up brutal crackdown on Christians.
by Jeff M. Sellers | posted 07/18/2005 09:00 a.m.

In March, police in Eritrea arrested the pastor of a Full Gospel church on a busy boulevard in the capital city of Asmara. In his mid-50s and married with four children, Kidane Weldu was neither charged nor allowed outside contact.

'He is held incommunicado in the second police station in Asmara and is at risk of torture,' according to an Amnesty International report. 'Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of religion.'

Compass Direct reports that Weldu is one of 16 pastors and 883 Christians overall in the East African nation jailed for their faith. The Eritrean government, while claiming that it allows freedom of religion has stepped up its arrests of Christians this year after outlawing independent churches in 2002. Security forces have jailed at least 240 Christians this year.

Many of those arrested are held in metal shipping containers. Sweltering in the daytime and cold at night, the containers have no sanitation. Infectious diseases and diarrhea are common.

In November of last year, the government also began arresting members of Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches, as well as those in a renewal movement in the officially recognized Eritrean Orthodox church - the only legal faiths other than Islam.

Since May 2002 the government has denied or indefinitely prolonged church registration applications. It has also forbidden members from worshiping privately in their homes. Rights organizations report Eritrean"

Dumped into Drums
Read full article

Thursday, July 14, 2005

A Compelling Reason for Training the Mind

A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind

By Pastor John Piper

Thoughts on the Significance of Reading

July 13, 2005

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education—the rigorous training of the mind—is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding.

This sounds too obvious to be useful or compelling. But that’s just because we take the preciousness of reading so for granted; or, even more, because we appreciate so little the kind of thinking that a complex Bible passage requires of us.

The book of Hebrews, for example, is an intellectually challenging argument from Old Testament texts. The points that the author makes hang on biblical observations that come only from rigorous reading, not light skimming. And the understanding of these Old Testament interpretations in the text of Hebrews requires rigorous thought and mental effort. The same could be said for the extended argumentation of Romans and Galatians and the other books of the Bible.

This is an overwhelming argument for giving our children a disciplined and rigorous training in how to think an author’s thoughts after him from a text—especially a biblical text. An alphabet must be learned, as well as vocabulary, grammar, syntax, the rudiments of logic, and the way meaning is imparted through sustained connections of sentences and paragraphs.

The reason Christians have always planted schools where they have planted churches is because we are a people of THE BOOK. It is true that THE BOOK will never have its proper effect without prayer and the Holy Spirit. It is not a textbook to be debated; it is a fountain for spiritual thirst, and food for the soul, and a revelation of God, and a living power, and a two-edged sword. But none of this changes the fact: apart from the discipline of reading, the Bible is as powerless as paper. Someone might have to read it for you; but without reading, the meaning and the power of it are locked up.

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

Monday, July 11, 2005

The PostLiberalism Of Brevard Childs

By Dr Leong Tien Fock

Postliberalism, originated by Hans Frei and George Lindbeck, is one postmodern approach to theology that has captured the attention, even appreciation, of a number of evangelicals. Is postliberalism consistent with evangelicalism? By evangelicalism I mean Christian orthodoxy minus propositionalism, the view held by many evangelicals, notably Carl Henry, that propositions alone are adequate to express theological truth revealed in the Scripture. Given that so much of Scripture is poetry and narrative evangelicalism cannot be faithful to Scripture if it has no room for the imagination to complement propositions to enhance and enrich our perception of theological truth.

Henry H. Knight III in his book A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World presents a summary of Hans Frei’s view that:

the biblical narrative is quite close to history-writing in depicting a common public world. However, in clear distinction from history-writing, biblical narratives introduce supernatural causation and miraculous occurrences. Thus to insist on a rational demonstration that these narratives either are or are not historical is necessarily to misread them; it fails to read them literally, as narratives.

The reason this is so is that, in order to determine their historical accuracy, the narratives are no longer permitted to interpret our world; rather the criteria of Enlightenment modernity are used to evaluate the narratives (pp. 100-101).

One can raise the counter-charge that Frei’s assumption that biblical narratives are “history-like” but not history because they “introduce supernatural causation and miraculous occurrences” is resting on Enlightenment modernity. It is not our purpose to carry on a debate on postliberalism as presented by Frei or George Lindbeck, which has been ably done elsewhere by notable scholars. But the debate generally excludes Bible scholars and biblical theologians. To address this lack I hereby present a paper on Brevard Child’s canonical criticism originally written as a term paper for a graduate course on Old Testament Studies at Wheaton College Graduate School.

Read the rest of article...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


The Graduate Christian Fellowship together with OHMSI is co-organising for the 1st time in Malaysian history a National Congress on Integrity:

Corruption the Weakest Link. The conference is endorsed by NECF. We expect this 1 day high powered conference to be an opportunity for Christians and concerned citizens in Malaysia to take a stand regarding the issue of corruption in our country and to contribute towards helping shape the national conscience of our land.

We have invited the Prime Minister to give the key note address, failing which Max Ongkili will read the PM's message. We are hopeful that as an outcome all present will sign a pledge on integrity and good governance and that a propose agenda for change be submitted to the PM.

This is an excellent opprtunity for all of us to be involved in something that may be a catalyst to help shape the future of our nation. So do not miss this opportunity!!

How can you help? First pray with us that this conference will be a success.
Second, email this to others whom you think may be interested in this.
Third, come yourself and be part of the experience.
Fourth, sponsor someone whom you think would benefit from attending. The conference is inclusive and people of all faith are welcomed.

Hardcopy brochures and posters will be sent to the churches and christian orgainsations. If you can't access the attached softcopies, the salient information are below:

National Congress on integrity: Corruption the Weakest Link
Venue : Sunway Convention Centre, Sunway
Date : 16 July 1005
time : 9.00 - 6.00pm
Cost : RM100 for GCF/OHMSI members and
early birds
RM125 for regulars

National Congress on Integrity 2005
Corruption the Weakest Link

The National Congress on Integrity 2005 (NCI 2005) is an intense one-day look on t! he effects of corruption on national integrity. It provides a public platform for concerned hearts and minds to engage the issue of corruption in a timely, extensive and inclusive dialogue.

Christian leaders join public, private and third sector leaders to address key issues and explore avenues to effect change. Good case studies on integrity will also be highlighted and public discussions conducted to collate feedback for the Government on related issues.


9.00am - 9.30am:
Keynote address: Corruption and Its Impact on Nationhood
Speaker: YAB Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister of


9.30am - 9.55am: Moral and Theological Reflections
Speaker: Rt Rev. Dr Paul Tan Chee Ing, Bishop of Malacca-Johore, Catholic

9.55am - 10.20am: Corruption - the Legal Perspective
Speaker: Mr Chooi Mun Sou, Managing Partner, Chooi & Co

10.20 - 10.45am: A Nation in Crisis? Impact and Effect of Corruption on the
Malaysian Society
Speaker: Dr Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director, Yayasan Strategic Sosial

10.45 - 11.15am: Panel discussion and rebuttal
Panel : Dr Chandara Muzzaffar
: Dr Irene Fernandez
: YBhg Dato' Param Cumuraswamy

11.15 - 11.40am Tea Break

11.40 - 12.05pm: Private Sector Experience and Challenges
Speaker: Mr David Wong, Area Vice President, South East Asia and Managing
Director, Malaysia, Tupperware Corporation

12.05 - 12.30pm: Public Sector Experiences and Challenges
Speaker: YBhg Tan Sri Clifford Herbert, former Secretary General of the
Ministry of Finance Malaysia and present Chairman of Percetakan Nasional Bhd

12.30 - 1.00pm: Panel Discussion and rebuttal
Panel : Dr Chandara Muzzaffar
: Dr Irene Fernandez
: Dato' Param Cumuraswamy

1.00 - 2.00pm: Lunch

2.00 - 3.30 pm: Roun! dtable Discussion and Plenary Summing-up of Feedback
- What are the most pressing issues facing the country and what are
the recommendations for action?

3.30 - 3.50 pm: Tea Break


3.50 - 5.20 pm: Parallel Workshops on Practical Application and Workable

Workshop A: Citizen Watch by Mr Ernest Balasingam, Citizen Group for Ipoh

Workshop B: A Support System within the Local Church for Mutual
Accountability by Mr Wong Kim Kong, Secretary General, National Evangelical
Christian Fellowship

Workshop C: The Role of an Individual in Promoting Greater Transparency and
Integrity by Dr Denison Jayasooria, Executive Director, Yayasan Strategic
Sosial *

Workshop D: The Role of Corporate Leaders in Enhancing Corporate Governance,
Good Practices in Corporations and Businesses by
YBhg Dato Paul Low, Director of Malaysian Sheet Glass Berhad

Workshop E: The Role of the Ind! ividual Employee in Enhancing Good Behaviour
and Integrity in the Workplace by Mr Cheong Seng Gee, Executive Director,
POD & Exco member, Graduates Christian Fellowship Malaysia

Workshop F: Dealing with Corruption through Proper Channels - Practical Do's
and Don't's *

Workshop G: Transparency for Improved Effectiveness and Governance*

Workshop H: Ensuring Accountability and Efficient Public Spending*

5.20 - 5.45 pm: Pledge Signing Ceremony and Closing of the Congress

* awaiting speakers' confirmation